Pianos: Calligraphy, coffee and cats.

The florid art case of a (or an!) historic harpsichord beside the instrument we intend to tend. In a (or an!) hospitable transgression it was used by the maid as a coffee table. No. Just no. What? Having a maid? No, simply such a service surface selection. It was clearly easier than balancing a tray atop the harp languishing nearby.

My succulents have produced micro-flowers. My camera wore a jeweller's eyepiece for this shot while I wore a frock of tit-for-tat taffeta. When I'm onstage with the great Mic Conway and he tap dances, I'm compelled to discuss this garment in all its onomatopoeic detail. Gardeners with more confidence might congratulate themselves on timely tending. I view each flower as the plant saying, 'Avenge my death, child!' 

Life's Little Mysteries #37. Who is the missing celebrity? I figure someone might be able to make Sudoku-style sense of that gap.

Life's Little Mysteries #42. What were musicians called before they were called musicians? Let's peel back the onion-like layers of lexicographic history and learn. Toting a sousaphone, I figure I qualify on both counts: Jazz musician and disabled.

It's not quite analogous to those Japanese display menu items (pretty plastic foodstuff) because this used to be a real piano. This sign is code for 'we won't pay for tuning, maintenance nor disposal'.

Budding genius.

'More flies than a barbecue'. It could be a thing piano technicians say, but it isn't. Fly dampers are the little extra attachments above some normal dampers. Towards the bottom of the treble bridge (in the mid-to-low range of the piano) the strings' larger vibration patterns give the trichord dampers a tough assignment. 

The flat dampers found further up have already transitioned to 'W' dampers (there is one you can glimpse nestling in between the strings). A 'W' is still not always enough. Many pianos have no flies, many have one or two. This is quite a picnic.

Dedicated readers may recall the time when the Caped Regulators took on a piano move (within a house). The client had intelligently prepared for the event. She'd created an effigy of the piano out of a bloody big piece of butcher's paper. Where was that bloody big butcher? The piano was installed as per her butcher's order. Finally some sense of that nonsensical nook was made.

She decided to carpet the nook and we were at it again. Seconded for a second move, well, a third, actually. 'Park the piano here' (in front of the linen press doors). I swear I nearly swore (I probably did) when the neatly parked piano had to be shimmied well away from the wall for access to linen she'd forgotten to get out earlier! Gah!


The roof has eyes. The loneliness of the long-distance piano tuner (my esteemed partner in piano pampering) is abated by this little sidekick's assistance and hijinks.

I really did this! No news is good news if you think that this is news. Perhaps while I'm here I can help their editors.

With a Steinway frame having been sprayed in the workshop, I'm noticing anew the surfeit of sloppy non-factory lettering work to be found around town. I wouldn't relish the Artbrush Challenge, but there has to be a way to improve on this.

Dubious daubings.

This appears to be paint, but I have heard tales of pesky shopkeeps having a go with a texta. Perhaps they should stick to playing their favourite fragments of  Buy This Piano, Madam and trying to trill on the till, 'Kaching-ding-ding'. 

Perhaps it's a job for an old-fashioned calligraphy artist. I'll try Ye Olde Printe Shoppe.

I see things on the way to jobs and think, 'I must snap that as I leave'. I invariably forget. Sometimes I do it before - then it gets done. When I leave I often drive off in a different direction and thus am not prompted about whatever remarkable sight caught my eye. This sign, mounted way too high for easy reading, still rankled. The playing of ball games is prohibited. What about the playing of punching games?

This Blüthner's treble section is unusually flared. The flanges (where the hammers attach to the action rail) are angled by design so that the hammers are spread further to the right (to match the strings' position). It is more usual for the hammer shanks to be more vertical. It had another story to tell...

...is it sporting the legacy of having been too sporting? Or taking the clichéd theatre epithet too far? Is this school an equal opportunity employer?

It's a laudable but ugly fortification. Not. My. Problem.  

Piano technicians may have reservations about this craze.

Toolkitty cat. This kitty sat there for so long that I considered making a time-lapse film.

I'm obsessed with filming and editing little movies on my iThings to share with like-minded mates. I pepper my filmlets with mildly amusing fare as I gad about this fair city and beyond. Sometimes such seasonings make it to this blog. I cannot believe I felt I was in such a rush between jobs this day that I didn't take the time to lift the wiper blade and see just what the threat entailed. Top marks for apostrophe placement, however.

Spied in another colleague's workshop, a centre pin holder. An elderly technician (who was less elderly at the time) used to make these nifty items and sell them to fellow technicians at guild meetings. Observe a centre pin extractor/insertion tool and centre pin cutters to the side. 

Centre pins are little axles used widely in piano actions and some other pivoting parts. Repinning of action parts may be required due to the pin (and joint) being either too tight or too loose. Each centre pin is surrounded by bushing cloth. Wooden action parts and the bushing cloth may expand with increased humidity, causing sluggish movement. 

Centre pins are usually nickel-plated brass or German silver. The sizes of pins increase by .025 of a millimetre. Size 19 is 1.2mm in diameter. The most commonly-used size is 21.5 (1.325mm) by evolution it has proved to be the most useful size. 

To address looseness, larger sized pins are used as replacements. This is legitimate, unless the bushing cloth is overly worn or damaged. By the time one might be tempted to use the largest sizes, the viability of the piano may already be called into question. 

Red sales in the sunset.

Pianos: Going Dotty

You really get a good look at an artwork when it's right above the piano. 

No one is going to sneak up on me. Or are they? Probably. This lid had no hinge pins (I don't know who to blame). The lid promptly performed a disappearing act by falling down behind the piano. I improvised some fixings and refitted it at the end of the tuning.

The meditative nature of a detailed aural tuning sees me bathing in coincidental partials and concentric dotty donuts. Many works of this type are maps and seasonal records. In a bumper year Krispy Kreme dispensaries would germinate and bloom both north and south of the serpentine stream.

Thrilled that Lord Lard Lad had again provided for them...

...the natives would celebrate with the traditional Dance of the Donut. 

OK, perhaps this is my view from the stage during a very seasonal gig. I can't believe that I'm such a mercenary muso that I'm prepared to wantonly whoop it up to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese without a single reflection about the happy couple. 'Cazzbo, do you take this gig? To have and to hold?' Perhaps against my better judgement, 'I do.' 

After many hours I witness a different drunken dirndl dance on the city's streets and railway platforms (not by me, I wear lederhosen and never dance offstage). I had never heard the word 'uber' sprinkled so liberally throughout the lexicon as I trudged away with heavy heart, tuba and bladder. Concerned tones from every second wan young thing with phone, 'I'm trying to find my Uber...' is not exactly singing an ode to the Fatherland.

Mind the cleavage, er, I mean gap. I've suffered for my art, not only on the gig, but by insisting on attempting such stealth photography while a tuba in a backpack gig bag compresses my spine. I do it for you, Dear Reader. For you.

An uncharacteristic window seat choice sees me admiring our sweeping sepia land afresh. My work under the musician's witness protection scheme ensures regular traversing of Terra Australis. I confess I'm glad I live amid a broader palette.

My succulents have spawned micro-flowers. A friend informed me that the burgundy hues (right) mean too much sun. So now my garden breaches Cancer Council guidelines. I learned all I know about tending succulents from Wile E. Coyote.

Perhaps they need a shadier spot, as do many function room pianos. When was your piano last tuned and watered, Madam? I recommend a light application of middle C-sol (Seasol). This quip works on so many levels, or none at all - you be the judge.

My Far North Queensland correspondent grows fruits that look like pugs. Her recommendations for my crimson quasi-cacti are not to be trifled with.

At the risk of being obtuse, square pianos are rectangular. I wish I had documented this instrument more thoroughly, but bad light and a highly-engaged client limited my aesthetic intentions. As one who totes not one, but two iThings, I find myself often illuminating the nether regions of pianos with one phone while snapping with the other.

Incredibly, the client had no idea that she possessed a historic instrument, having sought simply to provide for her daughter's musical needs.

This home music teacher gets top marks for installing a convenient receptacle for her pencils, reducing the risk of inadvertently using the innards of the piano for Derwent deposits.

Apostrophe on both your houses. 

I only usually watch television in hotel rooms when I can't receive Radio National.

I'm about to secure the licensing rights to an apostrophe GPS system. I refuse to secure anything with these structurally dubious sashes.

Seemingly a seamstress. Possibly an editor.

Miserable months.

I do not fear extraneous apostrophes adding to my calorific intake.


I would have thought that the famed Avocado Festival would have picked up this one. To be fair, it was correct everywhere else. I learned that there are about a hundred breeds of avocado. I can only remember two... Haas, and the other one.

Not at all. Blessed (one syllable) or blessed (the two-syllable frustrated curse)? This event hire tuning job saw an uncharacteristic instrument supplanting the usual cavalcade of Yamaha triangles (grands). This piano had a film role as practise piano in a ballet studio. It was well-suited. A method-acting approach would have been to step away from the tuning task (or de-tune the piano a little more). That would have added authenticity.

Ballet schools are notorious for preferring shirty-shorty shit-boxes that often come from countries whose names would score highly in Scrabble if their use was permitted. Ballet schools are notorious for caring nary a skerrick for tuning, hollering only when parts or strings fail, while forbidding tuning (for reasons of tightarsery) in the same breath. I appreciate that a tight arse is a ballet asset. If you're a ballet school authority nudging your dudgeon further northward as you read - prove me wrong.

An additional frustration this day was that I had to interrupt my tuning repeatedly to be silent while other scenes were filmed in an adjoining space.

This ballet school accompanist (whose issues, again, were purely non-functioning keys, action parts and dampers) was so proud of his school's pianos' provenance that he had labelled them with Trodat typey-tape thingies! 

Meanwhile, in the workshop, a Steinway D frame (removed from the piano) is being readied for respraying. At last this mysterious apostrophe can be euthanised.

Pianos: Tales from the golden submarine

Among the activities in the piano lair, a piano is dismantled. This is a loose series of vignettes rather than any sort of instructional.

If you're about to complain that this blog post (or the greater internet) is lacking in cats, please address your kitty letter to Locked Bag 141, I-randomly-rode-my-bicycle-down-this Street. Any further questions, ask the Oracle Cat of Clunkerton Mews.

The scope of work for this piano is extensive. In readiness for restringing and repinning its strings are loosened then the becketts (the sections that enter the holes in the tuning pins) are prised out. Before any undoing begins, the torque of each tuning pin is measured. This provides valuable information about the condition of the pin block and helps confirm what size tuning pins should be used when the piano is restrung.

The music wire coils are snipped off.

The tuning pins are removed via a tuning tip installed into a powerful drill operated at a relatively slow speed. Too much speed will burnish and compromise the holes in the wooden pin block.

The pins are packed into boxes. A box of tuning pins is quite a weight. The boxes provide a convenient way to balance the cast iron piano frame (or plate) when it is lifted out of the piano by means of a hoist.

The cabinet is protected with felt underlay lining. Metal clips over the lining ensure that the cabinet insides are not damaged as the cast iron frame is removed.

An example of a clip made for a for a smaller piano.

The frame is winched out and (implausibly) rotated and leant up against a wall. I really wish I could find some conclusive data on what such a frame weighs. It's got to be 300 kilograms at least. Bloody heavy. Channeling my inner cat, I slithered behind the near-vertical frame for this blog instalment's opening selfie.

I hope to bring you many of the little things I've witnessed in the piano lair.

Not really tools, but rather, jigs, on this occasion. This little block, whipped up in a trice, has 12 holes on one side and ten on the other. When a grand piano action stack is removed from the keys there are commonly 10 or 12 screws which attach the action stack to the key frame. Keeping the screws in order is recommended not only because some might be worn differently. Occasionally a screw of a larger size may have been substituted to combat a compromised wooden thread in the key frame, although that is not regarded as a desirable 'fix' for a fine instrument. 

The Good Woodsman whips up a rest to house the collection of plate bolts during the dismantling. Often something as simple as the side of a corrugated cardboard box may be used to hold removed screws. Holes jabbed into the cardboard (in a shape or order reflecting the screws' orientation when installed) hold screws, bolts and other hardware. I've learned that the same cardboard method is a mainstay in the automotive industry. Anything practical one can do to make mantling more efficient is worth it.  

Plate bolts, bells, bits and bobs. One can never be too organised with such items. There are myriad measurements to take and observations to be made before anything is disassembled.

Out in the field the little block does its job as we remove the action stack to clean and regulate a keyboard. That screw in the top left hand corner looks to be just the sort of 'substitute' I mentioned earlier.

Another random wooden block houses a set of screws in the workshop. Note the naked soundboard and bridges in the background.

The plate suspended. It will be prepared for repainting. Off to Bunnings for more moon dust and thinners.

With the magic of a pan across a set of keys removed from a piano, let me take you away from all this, gentle reader, out into a swanky piano room where the Caped Regulators encounter a piano with a peculiar problem.

A bichord agraffe has broken. It is an unusual event although apparently not entirely uncommon for this brand of piano.

The top of the brass agraffe has broken off its base.

In readiness for the service call various spare agraffes are located in the workshop. The thread size of the broken agraffee is not known. Note the small brass washers which are used to ensure that each agraffe is at the correct height and orientation when screwed in tightly.

A hole is drilled into the agraffe base to enable the insertion of an extractor tool.

Out it comes with a Grabit Drill-Out industrial-grade damaged bolt remover. If the bottom of the broken agraffe had not been able to be extracted cleanly, a new thread would need to be created.

Remarkably an agraffe from a Young Chang piano fits this poor Petrof.

The unenviable and uncertain task of wrangling resilient music wire to re-attach the strings begins.

A trichord agraffe (designed for three strings) deputises in the bichord range. This will serve as a reminder to the client that this part belongs to another piano and is an interim replacement only.

Wheely jigs made to assist piano manoeuvering in the workshop. Grand piano legs (with castors or not) sit in these three-wheeled doovers.

And now, something from the garden.

Oops, I mean something from the garden.